Last weekend we took a three day trip to Barcelona to visit a friend. Since flights are about 50-100 euro its not necesarilly an evidence to pay 260 euro per person to go by train, but we thought we’d give it a try and see if it’s worth its price. This post is not to convince you to visit Barcelona, but to consider travelling by train on longer distances in an easygoing and more comfortable way.
If you book well in advance with Thalys, or get an Izy ticket you can have a 19 or 25 euro ticket one way. So the trick is to find the Paris-Barcelona trip with the direct train at a reasonable price: in our case 105 euro one way.
There are multiple options to make your one-time transfer between Brussels and Barcelona: Paris (like we did), Valence-Perpignan-Montpellier (same direct line) or Lyon. Plenty of options to make a stopover or spend the night.
Brussels – Paris
On Thursday afternoon we took the Thalys from Brussels-midi to Paris North station. We took our folding cycles that we attached to the rack at the entrance of the train and a backpack full of entertainment: apero, chess game, books,… The plan was to do part of the trip on Thursday, and continue to Barcelona on Friday morning to make the trainride feel a little shorter.
A super nice and “affordable” stay is the OFF Paris Seine hotel with rates starting at 160 euro per night. The hotel is a floating catamaran on the Seine river. The bar and breakfast room has impressive views and so do the rooms.
The hotel is at walking distance from the Marais neighbourhood where we went for dinner in an old classic restaurant “Le Dôme du Marais” with nice decors and good food (thx for the recommendation Filip!). After that we took a walk through the small streets, the Notre Dame and some of Paris highlights that are closeby.
Paris – Barcelona
On day 2 we head off with the 10am direct train from Paris Gare de Lyon. A six hour train ride takes you through the beautiful french countryside, along the Mont Ventoux (see picture below), passing the Mediterranean and through the Pyrenees into Spain.
You better take a good french picknick if you want to avoid the average overpriced train food. With some boiled eggs, french bread and cheese, chocolate, croissants, champagne and more we brunched our way through nature. We read a book, played some chess and got completely overwhelmed by the views on the way.
Barcelona Day 1
The ultimate sense of freedom was to get off the train, unfold our bikes and start roaming through Barcelona. Our first stop was to find our friend Mariska rowing through the yacht harbour.
A cosy tapas place with funny waiters is the Cerveceria Vaso de Oro, closeby to the harbour. The interior and vibe gets you straight into the Barcelona life.
Barcelona day 2
Waking up on the sunny terrace with a cup of coffee, couldn’t get better than this. Since this was not the first time in Barcelona we did not have a must see list but decided to stroll around, meet some friends and drink Vermouth.
A short detour over the electric stairs and through the Parc Güell, took us through Gracia for breakfast and lunch.
For lunch or diner you can go to Pepa Tomate, or for a very “Typical” Vermouth experience go to La Bodegueta de Gracia. The latter is a very basic place without a terrace, but the Vermouth and papas bravas will convince you to go back.
And a metro ride later we were standing on Montjuic to take the touristy cable car to the port. We never took it before, but the views are totaly worth it! A one way ticket is 11 euro and there is always a bit of a waiting line, but we found it worth its money.
The ride on the cable car takes about 10 min, but you can stay longer on the tower in the harbor to keep enjoying the 360° view. If the weather is nice the windows of the cabin are open so you can stick out your camera to take better pictures.
To enjoy sunset and apero, one of the nicest spots is the beach on Playa de la Barceloneta. Vendors sell you beer at a negotiable price (going down from 2-3 euros to 1 euro for a beer), so not needed to bring your own drinks.
And since non-natives living in Barcelona start to get sick of the typical spanish tapas, we tested an amazing asian alternative: L’Ôs Panda! Highly recommended if you want to skip the tapas for once. Best to reserve in advance though.
Barcelona day 3
On our final day in Barcelona we spent the morning having brunch at Llop. A “hipster brunchbar” on a small square in El Raval, with a longlist of breakfast dishes and great carrot pie and cheesecake.
Just around the corner are the gardens of Rubio y Lluch. A place to sit and read a book under the orange trees after over eating yourself at breakfast.
We finished our time in Barcelona like we started it: with a view on the harbor enjoying the sun. After that we cycled back to the Sants railway station where our train back to Paris left a little past 13h.
Barcelona – Brussels
On the way back, travelling in the opposite direction, you see things you didn’t notice on the first trip. So again: not boring at all.
But still, this trip felt a bit longer: we left at 13h in Barcelona Sants, straight to Paris Gare de Lyon. Than cycled to Paris Nord station and with the Thalys back to Brussels. We arrived back home around eleven o’clock in the evening after an overwhelming trainride.
So next time you are checking the flights to some citytrip location like Barcelona, Nice, Berlin, Amsterdam,… you name it… consider taking the train instead! With some good food, books and companion you’ll love it! (And the Planet will like it as well).